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Sanskrit – Language of the Gods
Text & Multimedia ©Nayan Sthankiya
Melkote, a temple town situated about 50 km north of Mysore, is one of India’s best preserved places still clinging to its rich cultural heritage which defines the town and its people. Flourishing during the twelfth century it was the centre of cultural and religious activities in the region. Renowned for the Cheluvaraya Swami and Yoga Narasimhaswamy temples. Festivals include, the Vairamudi festival celebrated during March-April, Teppotsavam and the birth anniversaries of prominent saints. Many traditions belonging to those historic times still persist today. The town still exhibits all the characteristics of its rich history. The town plan, the building style and the cultural practices have remained unchanged for centuries. The temple premises houses the oldest Sanskrit Pathsahala in India that dates back to 1853, Sri Veda Vedantha Bodhini Sanskrit Mahapathashala teaches in the ancient Sanskrit language, logic, rheotic, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, ritual, architecture, Panchatantra, Dharmashastras, Grihya and Dharmasutra.
Sanskrit is a member of the Indo-Iranian sub-family of the Indo-European family of languages. It has the characteristic Satem, sound changes associated with other members of Indo-Iranian. The term “Sanskrit” was not thought of as a specific language set apart from other languages, but more as a particularly refined or perfected manner of speaking. Knowledge of Sanskrit was a marker of social class and educational attainment in ancient India and was taught mainly to members of the higher castes. The daily use of the language has fallen out of favor reserved mainly for religious services. However many of the most common languages in India use vocabulary taken directly from Sanskrit.
Western popular culture has recently discovered the power of the shlokas, making appearances in pop music and movies. In two of Madonnas albums, “Shanti/Ashtangi,” from the 1998 album “Ray of Light,” is the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga chant set to music and “Cyber-raga,” released in 2000 as a B-side to Madonna’s single “Music,” is a Sanskrit-language ode of devotion to a higher power and a wish for peace on earth. The climactic battle theme of The Matrix Revolutions features a choir singing Sanskrit prayer (the Gayatri Mantra)in the closing titles. Composer John Williams also featured a choir singing in Sanskrit for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Despite this rich heritage with globalization, modernity and pour government management, once prosperous industry, hand-looms and education have declined and more and more of the younger population have migrated to bigger cities for better jobs and better social prospects.